The McLaren Driver Development Programme will resume this year with Team Rocket RJN now running both of the factory’s Intelligent Money British GT4 Championship entries.
Having been suspended in June 2020 amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the programme will return with the previously announced drivers finally getting their chance.
Katie Milner, Michael Benyahia, Harry Hayek and Alain Valente will race a McLaren 570S GT4 with the final pairings to be announced at a later date.
Team Rocket RJN, a McLaren Customer Racing team, will run the cars having completed a successful GT3 season with James Baldwin and Michael O’ Brien who himself was a DDP member in 2018.
21-year old Milner, from York, is the first woman ever to feature on McLaren’s DDP roster. She proved herself with multiple championship-winning performances in Autograss before becoming the first female Junior Saloon champion in 2016. She then moved across to the Ginetta GT5 Challenge where she continued to fine-tune her racecraft with a number of race-winning performances. Milner was also awarded the British Women Racing Drivers Club (BWRDC) Gold Star in 2016.
Moroccan Benyahia returns to familiar surroundings in 2021 after racing a McLaren in ADAC GT4 Germany two years ago. Of particular note was his performance with Team GT at the Nürburgring where the 20-year old scored victory, which helped him to finish sixth in the final standings. His GT4 switch came two seasons after winning Formula Renault NEC.
22-year-old Australian Hayek who became multiple state karting champion before moving to single-seaters. Domestic F4 wins followed before switching to the British F3 Championship in 2017. A severe accident and subsequent health issues checked his career progression, but after battling to make a full recovery he returned to racing in 2019 and immediately impressed with a podium on his Australian F4 return.
The line-up is completed by Valente who campaigned Team GT’s other McLaren in ADAC GT4 Germany two years ago. The Swiss claimed one victory en route to 11th in the Drivers’ Championship following a year in the GT4 European Series.
“We are delighted to finally have the opportunity to deliver the McLaren Driver Development Programme to the four highly promising young drivers that we selected a year ago during a rigorous assessment process,” said McLaren Customer Racing director Ian Morgan.
“Following an excellent season in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, we are also delighted to confirm Team Rocket RJN as the team that will be running our four drivers. This exciting new partnership should see them fulfil their potential by achieving great results in the GT4 title race.”
Team Rocket RJN co-owner Chris Buncombe added: “Announcing our involvement with the McLaren Driver Development Programme is a fantastic way to begin our second season as a McLaren Customer Racing team. We’re also looking forward to expanding into the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s GT4 class following a hugely successful debut campaign with the McLaren 720S GT3, which powered James Baldwin and Michael O’Brien to third place in the Silver Cup standings. With the 2021 season on track to get underway in late spring we’re confident that our highly talented young drivers will be a force to be reckoned with in the McLaren 570S GT4.”
Brands Hatch hosts the opening round of this season’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship on May 22-23.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO KEEP THE WEBSITE RUNNING AND ALLOW THE GT REPORT TEAM TO CONTINUE TO BRING YOU EXCLUSIVE CONTENT.
NEW PRINTS AND CANVAS AVAILABLE IN OUR SHOP: